Jamie Catt


Blog of Jamie Catt

Framed In Negatives: Portraits

Tung Chung, Hong Kong, 2017   |   Canon AE-1, Kodak Tri-X 400

Tung Chung, Hong Kong, 2017   |   Canon AE-1, Kodak Portra 160

This set is a long collection of portrait shots of my sister during my Spring Break in Hong Kong.


We're all in the same boat: shooting sceneries, moments and milestones. But if there were a couple of lessons that I learned when I took up film photography was the value of looking things in black and white. You give more focus and emphasis in tones, in values and contrast, in composition and framing.

I was under the class of one of the great professors I came across, Chris Johnson, who worked alongside one of the remarkable and renowned photographers in history and in nature, Ansel Adams as well as Wynn Bullock. Passing down his knowledge and experience to us from the great masters himself was an overwhelming opportunity. If only my limited amount of electives could allow it, I would love nothing more than to take up his more advanced classes, in digital and in film.

He taught us that it's not all about making pretty pictures but making meaningful ones that creates a connection to its viewer. Our professor would always ask for our opinions during critique and make us question the work of our colleagues. It circles back to the same set of Q's but every single time, the answers and learning outcomes are different: "Which captures your attention?" "What is the main focus?" "If I cover this part, do you think it makes the image stronger? Or does it take away from the overall composition of the image?"

This just goest to show that there's always something new to gather and learn; from others and from your own body of work. As Sydney-based food and lifestyle photographer, Luisa Brimble encourages her thousands of followers on Instagram Stories, "Study your own work. Train that brain. Increase your visual literacy."

That being said, here are some bullet points I learned as I progressed with my journey in film photography:

  • Balanced compositions and symmetry makes a compelling image.
  • A photo is a story without words, and you try to create or evoke thoughts and feelings into a single image without saying anything at all. Every element, every piece of object, every person in that exact moment counts.
  • Portraiture is about capturing the character and expressions of the person. Shooting people means capture the soul of their being and trying to convey who they are as a person in a single or a series of images.
  • Candid, spontaneous moments are once in a lifetime events that happens in the split of a second. Capture things that matters most (to you).